After a night of working well past 1am, I woke up later than usual today. This provoked a quick mental debated whether to get ready and obligingly join the routine morning traffic jam to work or stay at home a little longer, complete the work that had kept me awake for the better part of the night and then drive out after the rush hour.
When that little mental debate was resolved, I began to think of what residents of Kampala and towns in its immediate vicinity can do to lessen the time and fiscal cost of all the traffic congestion in our generously pot-holed city. It is well documented that the city administration and the central government have failed to provide some of the most basic needs for residents of its capital.
And, in most cases, the residents have taken it upon themselves to provide these services at individual or community levels – never mind that people are required to pay taxes regularly. So where Umeme load-sheds, individuals buy generators; where the government fails to provide adequate medical facilities at the national hospitals, individuals and their employers take up expensive health insurance packages, and where the state security forces fail to secure residents, people contract private security firms to guard their homes and business.
The irony is that some of the private companies that provide more efficient services (at a high premium, of course) are owned by the very government employees in charge of the national service providers that have failed to perform effectively. But that is a topic for another day.
Now, if the government has failed to fix pot holes – let alone construct the necessary infrastructure that would ease traffic congestion in the city like fly-over bridges, by-passes other than just the northern by-pass that has completion issues of its own, etc – then perhaps the residents need to once again take matters into their own hands and find temporary solutions that ease the congestion until either the government in power wakes up or the peasants wake up and vote for a government that that wants to provide more than just peace for its citizens and legislators to sleep.
My proposal, rudimentary as it is, would be for what I will call a Housing Re-alignment Bureau.
This is why. In most cases, the traffic jams in Kampala are caused by people residing in one end of the city and working in the other. So you find that people staying in Munyonyo but working in Kyambogo will contribute to the jam in Kabalagala, Nsambya, Jinja Road and Nakawa before they get to work. Ditto people who reside in Kyambogo and work in Munyonyo. Similarly, people staying in Entebbe and working in Ntinda (or vice versa) will contribute to the jam in more than major city four roads every morning before reaching their destination.
In order to avoid this, therefore, how about if we have a Housing Re-alignment Bureau so that those who stay in Munyonyo but work in Kyambogo can apply to get a house in Kyambogo. It would be the central reference point for housing, so that if there is another person who stays in Kyambogo but stays in Munyonyo, then the two swap houses.
That is of course assuming that the two have the same housing needs, which is not always the case. But even if people don’t have to swap houses, all landlords would be encouraged to register with the bureau so that whenever a house that matches the needs of a tenant who has applied to relocate is up for grabs, he/she is quickly notified.
This, or an arrangement of a similar nature, would in my view help to save people a lot of money in travel expenses, wasted time, and help reduce traffic congestion (to some extent) in our city that sometimes just grinds to a halt during the rush hours. In any case, many of those who own cars still rent houses so providing them with an incentive to relocate to a more convenient place, at least as far as their travel to and from work is concerned, is something I believe they would welcome.
Or would they?